A few weeks ago, my in-laws were at my home for a visit, and when my Au Pair had left for a meeting, they asked my husband and me if hosting an Au Pair was what we had expected.
Well, in what case is anything in life ever exactly what you expect?
But in truth, some things are what I expected, and some things I never could have foreseen.
Before I was able to experience it, the 45 hours a week of childcare seemed like so much to me, considering that before my Au Pair came, I only had 23 hours of in-home childcare. Am I able to get as much done as I need to and want to now? Actually, yes. Being able to tell my clients that I’m available now for regular weekday work hours has been great, and I no longer have to stress about not having enough time to get my work done.
Has having an Au Pair been beneficial to my marriage? Yes, it has. Having someone care for the children for consistent hours from 8:00 am until 5:00 pm has taken some stress out of my life which has made me a little easier to live with from a marital standpoint. I feel better in knowing that when she takes over for my husband in the morning, I don’t have to worry about his “handling” the children while I work out and shower. Not only do I find my life balanced between work and family, but I also have time to make homemade dinners every evening which provides another level of satisfaction to me as a mother and wife.
And yes, we did seek out someone with a similar lifestyle to our own, one that was more homebody than adventurer, and that has worked out well for the most part. Gathering together to watch our favorite television shows, my husband, my Au Pair, and I have gotten to spend some quality adult time together after the children have gone to bed. And while she does like to hang out with her friends occasionally on the weekends, she isn’t constantly on the go whenever she’s off duty.
The ways in which the hosting experience has not been what I expected were things I don’t think I could have anticipated. Her adjusting into our family and into understanding the children took longer than I thought it would. In the beginning, I would see how frustrated she would get and how childish some of her responses were to my three-year-old’s irrational attitude, like when she would give him a dirty look or seem to insight arguments with him that just should have been dropped. Luckily for all involved, she has matured and has also learned how to effectively communicate and handle the emotional and irrational behaviors of children.
Could I have predicted the reality of what it would be like to have a 20-year-old in my home? Pretty much no. Her addiction to social media I don’t even understand and her fascination with videos online are completely unrelated to anything pertinent to life as I understand it have taken some adjusting to. Dealing with the priorities of a person of that age are an interesting challenge. I don’t necessarily understand why she and her friends are at the mall every weekend, and she is always buying clothes when I know that she wants to save money to travel while in the US and to do other expensive things.
I also did not understand how much more I would need to up my communication skills and learn to face conflict and issues head-on. Twelve years ago before I met my husband, I was such a passive-aggressive personality who did anything and everything to avoid conflict. Over the years of being married to a non-filtered and in-your-face person has changed the way I communicate, but hosting an Au Pair has definitely helped me to try to find ways to keep the peace and to manage conflict resolution in a way that makes all parties happy.
Even though not everything is how I expected my first hosting experience to be, there have been so many unexpected benefits along the way. I have come to appreciate and understand another culture, our family has forever welcomed another member, and I have come to realize that having an Au Pair is something I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to live without!